INDIANAPOLIS — Georgia DT Geno Atkins stared at a camera following his first 40-yard dash and made a celebratory gesture. Later, after his short shuttle run, he again looked into a camera, this time flashing a broad smile.
Seven years ago, that never would have happened. The NFL Scouting Combine used to be shrouded in secrecy because nobody could see inside the stadium. That changed when NFL Network began airing the event live in 2004.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who admitted he initially opposed network filming the drills, credited the coverage with improving the event.
“The exposure’s good for the league, and it’s also good for the players,” Colbert said. “The players become very competitive in this environment with all the media attention and the network broadcasting it.”
All the attention might have helped increase player participation. Former NFL executive and current NFL.com contributor Gil Brandt pointed out a time in 1996 when the first nine running backs declined to do the 40-yard dash, prompting scouts to give a rousing standing ovation to Texas A&M’s Leeland McElroy, the 10th running back, when he completed his run.
– Jason Feller